There’s something about races that create memories. I think they stick differently on the memory timeline than other memories. Perhaps it is the adrenaline rush that comes pre-race, the camaraderie of shared accomplishment afterwards or maybe it’s just the pain of pushing yourself past your limits that awakens that moment as one to be remembered. Without much effort I can relive practically every running or triathlon race that I have done in the past four years. These aren’t fuzzy memories. They are crystal clear, down to the muscle strain, cardiovascular fatigue and a play-by-play of the inner tug-of-war of the will that plays the soundtrack of a race.
Races teach us how to live outside of our comfort zones. We get the luxury and encouragement of pushing our preconceived limits alongside thousands of others, attempting to do the very same thing. In my mind I liken it to combat. We, the running mass of competitors, are a banded army, running towards the action with courage.
I haven’t been racing much recently, and yesterday morning I wasn’t meant to either. Moreover, in preparation for my upcoming wedding, I’ve cut back on my weekly running mileage to allow for more strength based training. Even after the first half mile of the 10K down Richmond’s beautiful Monument Avenue I wasn’t sure what my body was going to decide to do. I hadn’t trained for this, I hadn’t eaten a proper breakfast and I hadn’t done much of a warm-up or any speed work.
The gun started, and Brandon and I inched our way up to the start line, alongside 40,000+ of our closest friends. This was the largest 10K in the United States, after all, and that stat in and of itself makes the Monument Ave 10K worthy of doing every year.
We trotted along together for the first half-mile at a pretty easy pace.
And then my legs took over.
I didn’t race the 10K by any stretch of the imagination, but I got myself to just the perfect point of participation that stretched not only my mind but my body as well. My original plan to run at my training pace of 7:30-7:45 minute / miles was replaced by a controlled 6:45-6:50 minute/ mile pace. It was just enough to be challenging to maintain for six miles, and easy enough to not feel like maximum effort. I knew I wouldn’t have a personal record, and truth be told, I didn’t want one. Yesterday I wanted to practice confidence. I wanted to be just tired enough at mile 4 and mile 5 that I would want to stop, yet determined enough to know that stopping wasn’t an option. It’s good to practice not quitting, and that, for many reasons is why I run.
Sometimes, to become something better within ourselves, we must first take part in something bigger than ourselves. Joining an army of runners will always inspire the greatness that lies within you to awaken. Races aren’t always about the time, rather, they are about the battle of strength, fortitude, perseverance and desire that happens within our minds. You and only you can be the warrior that prevails, so be fierce and face life with the same confidence.
Be willing to push yourself, but, more importantly, have confidence in yourself that when the going gets tough, you will be able to keep on going. Never stop and never give up.